Posts Tagged ‘China’

June 26, 2015

Four Ancient Sites Around the World That You Need to See

The world is full of amazing things from animals and architecture to jungles and restaurants. While these are all great things to work into any travel itinerary, sometimes the best sites are ancient. There are a few places that contain incredible feats of human ingenuity from thousands of years ago. When traveling to places such as Egypt, Turkey, China, or Croatia it’s important to take in as much history as you can through your travels. At Thomson Family Adventures we truly appreciate the past and embrace the beauty in those things ancient. Here are a few historical sites that everyone should see in their lifetime.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

giza

Another very popular site among world travelers is the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is the oldest and the largest of the pyramids in Giza. It is also the oldest of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and the only one that still remains. This single pyramid was built between 10 and 20 years and was finished around 2560 BC. For over 3,800 years this was also the tallest man made structure in the world! Although there is plenty of tangible evidence about who the builders of this temple were, like inscriptions from the workers on the inside of the stones, many people still believe that an alien source is responsible for its construction. What do you think— human strength and ingenuity or aliens!?

The Great Wall of China

Great Wall

This is one of the most visited destinations in the world and not by accident. The Great Wall of China was built in sections that date as far back 220 BC. Once the wall was fully completed, it stretched 13,171 miles across China and is still the largest man made structure in the world. This is an impressive feat considering the technological advances that the world has seen. Although it is no longer used as a main defense system, it is still awe-inspiring and should not be missed!

The Old City Walls of Dubrovnik

dubrovnik

Croatia is a beautiful country and the city of Dubrovnik has been around since the beginning. As long as Dubrovnik has been around so have the old city walls. During Byzantine rule in the 7th Century, these walls were built to defend the city and they were quite effective. In fact, it is considered one of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages since the walls were never breached during that time. The walls were continuously expanded and fortified up until the 17th Century.  In 1979 the Old City of Dubrovnik, which contains most sections of the Old Walls, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Underground City of Kaymakli

turkey

In the middle of Turkey in Cappadocia is a large network of underground tunnels and rooms that together comprise the city of Kaymakli. This intricate system contains hundreds of tunnels and goes eight stories deep into the ground. The tunnels run to caverns that were turned into meeting places and chapels; some rooms could hold as many as 300 people! Thousands of people used this city as a hide out during times of war. Today Kaymakli’s tunnels are not just a tourist attraction; a town built in the area still uses parts of the underground city as storage space, stables, and cellars. Can you imagine living underground for months at a time!

Call us today to find out how you can see these sites and so much more on your next family vacation!



June 23, 2015

What I’ve Seen: China

A couple of weeks ago we sent Grace, a member of our team here at Thomson Family Adventures, out to China to do some exploring and get a firsthand experience of traveling through China. We asked her a couple of questions about her trip so that you can get a better sense of what spending a family vacation in China with Thomson Family Adventures will be like!

Biking around Yangshuo

Biking around Yangshuo

Can you give us a brief overview of your trip in China?

I spent five nights in Beijing and three nights in Yangshuo, which means I was lucky enough to see two completely different parts of China! On the one hand, Beijing is a major bustling city with amazing historic sites dating back thousands of years. This includes the must-see spots like the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven (an icon of Beijing), and the disappearing hutongs that define the old city, accessible by foot and pedicabs. Alternatively, in Yangshuo, the beautiful karst formations are the main attraction, to which Chinese and international tourists alike flock to for vacation. Here, you’ll more than likely spend your days on a bike, bamboo raft, or on your own two feet exploring the area.

In Beijing, I was also invited to participate in seminars, lectures and experiences involving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is super interesting stuff. I took a tai chi lesson at the Temple of Heaven, explored the ancient concepts of yin and yang (in both your body and the universe) and life balance. I also visited local TCM hospitals and even experienced a traditional reflexology treatment.

The inner moat of the Forbidden City

The inner moat of the Forbidden City

China is pretty far away, how was the flight?

Not bad at all! My direct flight from Boston to Beijing lasted just under 14 hours, but somehow I managed to sleep for about nine of them on my way there! Crossing the International Date Line means that you lose a day on your way, though…  I left at 5PM on Sunday night Boston time and arrived in Beijing on Monday night, 7PM local time! This still boggles my mind – the closest I’ll ever get to time travel, I imagine. The great news about this particular jetlag is that I was alert and awake without an alarm early every morning, which is not always the case in everyday life. Coming home was also not a problem, surprisingly. If you can, take advantage of the time you have on a flight – it’s quiet, it’s simple and it’s uninterrupted. All you can do is be in the moment.

What was your favorite part of the trip? 

My two guides were amazing! My guide in Beijing grew up in the hutongs of Beijing, studied English at college and found himself in the tourism industry when China was just starting to open to visitors. Now, he’s a master-guide and interpreter, still calling Beijing “home.” My guide in Yangshuo was a young guy about my age who is also a Buddhist vegetarian, which was great news for me! We ordered all of his favorite vegetarian Chinese dishes.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

No dessert! For some reason, dessert isn’t a typical course in Chinese meals… and with my sweet tooth, I certainly missed it. Good thing I packed an emergency dark chocolate, roasted almond and sea salt chocolate bar in my luggage.

And, of course, traffic in Beijing is just one of those inevitable parts of a trip that you have to embrace – it’s uncontrollable. Every time we sat back down on the bus, we knew the drive was going to be “twenty to thirty minutes, Beijing time.” Or, “We’ll get there when we get there!” Take the time on the bus to cool off, people watch out the windows or take a cat-nap.

For the ladies, squat toilets are certainly something to be aware of ahead of time… if you’re not expecting them, they will be a surprise.

How was the food? What kind of things did you eat?

Being a vegetarian, my stomach was on high alert going to China! Though I was worried, I found that I had absolutely no basis for these fears… the food in China is delicious and also varies from region to region. Just as we have local specialties, like clam chowder and lobster here in Boston, so does China. In the north, they eat more starches like noodles and dumplings whereas the Sichuan province is renowned for their spicy cuisine! Of course, if you’re in Beijing, you’ll likely try the Peking Duck as well. For vegetarian dishes, I enjoyed a huge variety of sauteed veggies in different sauces, including vegetables that I’d never tried before – Chinese eggplant, lotus root, garlic shoots, celery root, bamboo shoots – and timeless favorites – tomatoes, green beans, squashes, radishes, leeks, beets, broccoli and all sorts of greens. Also, you must try the fresh mango juice in Yangshuo- and the dragon fruit! The Guangxi province, where Guilin and Yangshuo are located, is known for its rice noodle bowls. My guide brought me to a local restaurant where we had ours with tofu, toasted soy nuts, chili oil and pickled veggies. If you can, give it a try!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Did you notice any families traveling in China? If no, why do you think that was the case?

Definitely. On my last evening in Yangshuo, we had dinner next to an American family – three generations with three kids ranging from three to about eight years old. I also had a great chat with an American father who had been touring with his wife and teenage and early-twenties daughters, but had to leave a few days before them to go back to work. He LOVED the pandas in Chengdu.

Also, we saw Chinese school groups of all ages at the major sites as well – the Forbidden City and Great Wall in particular.

Did you feel safe being in and walking around China?

I certainly felt safe walking around Beijing and Yangshuo if we’re talking about “violent crimes,” though you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, of course. More than anything, the traffic is overwhelming, whether it’s vehicles, scooters, bikes or crowds. Pedestrians do not have the right of way.

Can you name one thing that you can only know from being in China? Something that you won’t find in any guidebook or on any website?

I love meeting local people when I’m traveling and asking all sorts of questions. These back and forth, genuine, spontaneous conversations are completely individual, unique and absolutely cannot be “out of a book.” For example, chatting with Duan, my guide, about his life growing up in China on our way to the airport for my flight to Yangshuo remains one of my favorite conversations from my trip. It’s a chance to connect with people, to find common ground and leave a piece of yourself behind as well.

Just hanging out on The Great Wall

Just hanging out on The Great Wall

If you’d like to learn more about China give us a call and Grace would be happy to speak with you! Or check out the different family vacation options we have for China here!



December 3, 2012

Fabulous Photos! #3 – 2 – 1

Winners of our 2011 – 2012 Photo Contest!

Biking in Yangshuo, China

That’s Number 3 above, by the Basile Family

Next is # 2 below, the crab by the Hacohen Family

Crab in the Galapagos

And finally, our #1 winner, by an overwhelming margin I might say, is this beauty from the Weissman Family Safari:

Wise elephant in Tanzania



February 5, 2012

An Ancient Story from China

Floating on the river

Thanks to the Linden Centre for their retelling of this story about the Chinese New Year.

Long ago, the world was not a safe place; monsters dominated the world. There was one horrifying monster that came out on the same day each year to eat people. This monster was named Nian, and the people marked the end of a year by his visits to the human civilization. That is where the Chinese word for year came from.

This monster was the most feared by the people because every time it came out, whole villages would be destroyed at a time. So, every time the monster came, people would huddle together in their homes and stay up all night, wanting not to be eaten. This happened for many years until a wise man thought up a plan to scare the monster away.

This man proposed that the people should light bamboo. The bamboo would crack and make a lot of noise, possibly scaring the monster away. The villagers thought this was a very good idea and started to light the bamboo. The noise was tremendous. The monster was scared by the loud noise and ran back to its cave without eating any people.

The next morning, everyone was present. They were all elated. The people congratulated each other for executing the plan effectively. So, from then on, people stayed up late, lit firecrackers (to simulate the lighting of the bamboo), and congratulated each other when the new year came.

This is a well-known story among China, The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old, it can be traced back to Xia Dynasty, which is around 4,000 years ago.

You can stay at the Linden Centre on our Smithsonian Family Adventure



March 10, 2010

Thomson Family Adventures and Avatar

Southern Sky Column, Zhangjiajie China

Truth is I have not yet seen the movie Avatar, but everyone I know who has says it is awesome. Just this week I learned that the very beautiful national park of Zhangjiajie in the Hunan province of China has been credited with inspiring the scenic landscape of Pandora. Wow!

This is ‘wow’ because we’ve found ourselves over and over having to convince our traveling families that this is a place worth visiting, even though almost no other Westerners are ever found here and previously no one else had ever heard of it. It was one of our true ‘off the beaten path’ spots we could quietly share with families who would then share the pathways with the Chinese and Koreans who frequent this lovely place. In fact one could Google ‘Zhangjiajie” and come up with … nothing. I’m pretty sure along the way we’ve been accused of making it up. But not any more!

Now it seems Hollywood has discovered this amazing sliver of nature and things will be changing fast. Avatar is the biggest selling movie in China, ever. Just this week the Chinese had a ceremony, and the once Southern Sky Column in Zhangjiajie will now be known as the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

What does this all mean? Maybe that you want to go to China this summer and see it for yourself! I can pretty honestly say you’ve never seen anything like it. This is the very place I learned I could sweat so much as to soak through my back pack as I climbed the approximately 3, 275 stairs to the top, with amazing views the whole way. Don’t get me wrong – Mira and I thought it was the coolest thing we ever did. The best part is you don’t even have to do the walk up – you can ride an elevator!

So if you always wanted to go to China, and your kids are enthralled with Avatar – you just gained a new edge for taking them. Let us show you how fabulous this can be; no special effects, just pure, awesome nature.